Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 5
Apr 2011 29

Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 5

Posted In All Things SG,Blog,Books,Entertainment,Fiction

by Mur Lafferty

SuicdeGirls presents the fifth installment of our Fiction Friday sci-fi series, Marco and the Red Granny, which is brought to you by SG columnist Mighty Mur a.k.a. cyber commentator Mur Lafferty.

Marco and the Red Granny is set in a not-so-distant future where an alien species, the Li-Jun, has transformed the moon into the new artistic center of the universe, where the Sally Ride Lunar Base soon gains the nickname “Mollywood.” These aliens can do amazing things with art and the senses, allowing a painting, for example, to stimulate senses other than sight.

In the previous installments, Marco, a writer whose career has long been in the doldrums, gets a surprise call from an agent he thought he no longer had, informing him that he had received an offer from Mollywood for a much coveted Li-Jun patronage. Keen to catch up career-wise with his ex-GF Penelope, who’d unceremoniously dumped him after being recruited by the Li-Jun two years earlier, Marco jumps on the next shuttle to the moon. Once aboard, he finds himself sitting next to a seemingly unassuming old lady called Heather, who turns out to be The Red Granny, a legend in Li-Jun’s reality show world for being a three-time champion of The Most Dangerous Game (which requires contestants to sign away the rights to their life).

We join Marco shortly after he lands on the Moon, as he settles into his new accommodations at House Blue. After a brief meeting with his new patron, a Li-Jun called Thirteen, Marco realizes he’s never been shown the terms of his employment. A sense of unease sets in as he prepares for the evening’s designated entertainment – a trip to see The Most Dangerous Game

Marco and the Red Granny – Part 5
“Marco, so good to see you!” his agent cried as she opened her chat program. She looked coiffed and ready to travel. “I’m heading to the moon earlier than I thought, I forgot travel slowed down a lot during your night. I’m catching the last shuttle for a week in fifteen minutes. What’s up? You settled?”

Marco shrugged. “It’ll take some getting used to. But I wanted to ask you – they’ve already sort of assumed I’m working for them. I have no idea what’s behind this patronage, what I’m doing for them, what they’re paying, or anything, really.”

Kathryn laughed. “No one has ever turned down a Li-Jun patronage before, Marco. You’re set for life. Does it matter what you’ll be doing for them? Comics, graphic novels, maybe?”

“Yeah, that sounds good, but I get the sense that Blue isn’t a house that usually supports the arts,” Marco said. “They support the blood sports like Most Dangerous Game! They’re the patron house of The Red Granny!”

Kathryn’s eyes went wide. “Really? I love her!”

Marco waved his hands in front of his tablet to get her attention. “That’s not the point. What if they expect me to participate in the games? What if some lines got crossed somewhere and suddenly I’m a gladiator? Can you get me out of it?”

Kathryn sighed. “Marco, they told me they wanted a writer and illustrator, someone who could do two kinds of art at once. They named you as the someone they wanted. They said your work is powerful and just what they’re looking for. They said they’re paying 25% over the standard patron and I would get mailed the full terms of the agreement today. I will call you when I get in and we can meet tomorrow to discuss it.”

“Okay,” Marco said doubtfully. “But I don’t even know what the standard patron contract is.”

“Listen, we’ll talk about it tomorrow. I have to go catch my shuttle. Cheer up, Marco. You look like you’ve been given a bowl of ice cream but you’re whining that it’s butter pecan instead of chocolate.”

Her face disappeared as she severed the connection, and Marco stared at his tablet. “But what if I’m allergic to nuts?” he muttered.

He sighed and placed the tablet on his human-sized desk. The room was clearly built for their pet humans; it resembled a high-end hotel room with an oak desk, queen-sized bed with silk bedspread and down comforter for the long moon nights, full bathroom (a luxury in Mollywood, where water was much more expensive than on Earth), television and gaming system, and treadmill and weight rack – very important for the low gravity, he understood.

He looked out the window. He didn’t know if he was gratified or annoyed about the fact that his window showed the clear dome and the moon wastes beyond. The sun was on the other side of the dome, and since it was setting to end a three hundred forty eight-hour moon day, only the light from the dome illuminated the gray landscape.

Just his luck to get there at the start of the two Earth week-long moon night. Talk about seasonal depression.

He could see just at the edge of his vision a red fence about twenty feet high. That must be where The Most Dangerous Game was played. He checked his watch and realized he hadn’t set it to lunar time. He’d need a new watch tomorrow. Mollywood ran on GMT, as the humans preferred a twenty four hour “day” but everyone needed a Lunar watch if only to know when the sun would return.

The large bathroom may have been a luxury, but the shower was carefully timed, something Marco didn’t realize. The hot water ran out when his hair was soapy, and he ended up having to rinse it in cold water from the sink, swearing and sputtering. He was only half dressed when a knock came at the door.

He figured it was human, as the Li-Jun had no knuckles to knock with. He opened the door in his jeans, still drying his hair, trying to rub some circulation back into his scalp.

It was Heather. She no longer had the innocent-lady-on-the-plane act going on; she’d washed her face of the makeup and now was dressed in the outfit Marco had seen her wearing in the promotional picture. She wore a silver shirt that had been Li-Jun-made, silk interwoven with metal, under which she wore a Kevlar vest. The silk had tubing running through it, attached to a small battery cell at her lower back, which Marco guessed was a heat source. Some entrants in The Most Dangerous Game wore Earth-made space suits; they didn’t last long.

Her pants were made of the same material, but shiny red. Down her right leg were the circular Li-Jun characters that Marco had seen on the doors and on some of the stationery on the desk that he assumed meant House Blue was her patron.

“I had a moment before I have to leave for the match, I thought I’d see how you were settling in,” she said. She had a different air about her now, a quiet, no-nonsense manner. She’d left the friendly, scatterbrained granny behind her on the shuttle; she was all business now.

“Uh, sure, come in,” Marco said. “I was just getting dressed.” He walked over to his duffle bag. “So, what does one wear to the games when one is a guest of a House?”

Heather smiled thinly and went to the closet. “I suppose you didn’t look in here?”

Marco peeked in to see clothing hanging: suits, jeans, shirts, coats, each one a different color, but a shift in angle brought out shimmery blue silk woven into each piece of clothing, branding it House Blue. He pulled out a simple white button down shirt. As his hands ran over the fabric, he smelled something like an apple orchard in fall. Not fake candle-like smells, but a shocking sense that he was actually among the ripening trees. “Is that-?” Marco said.

“All yours. You’re House Blue now, Marco. When you go to the games, you wear this. Not the clothes you brought.

The mention of the games brought Marco back to reality. He slipped the shirt over his undershirt and buttoned it, not looking at Heather. “So do you get nervous? Before the games, I mean.”

Heather laughed, her too-straight teeth shining. “Of course I do. People out there want to kill me. But you do this enough and you get used to it. You develop a way of doing things.” She went to his desk chair and watched him get dressed. “I don’t mean to say that it’s not difficult. I’m a target now, more than ever before. But it keeps you on your toes, doesn’t it?”

Marco took his new slacks into the bathroom with him for privacy. “Couldn’t you have taken up, I don’t know, knitting?” he called out the door.

“I could have, yes, but it doesn’t pay as well as the games do, hon. And it’s certainly not as exciting.”

“Point taken.” The jeans fit him perfectly, and the shirt hung just right to hide most of the gut he’d developed as an inactive writer. How did they know? He exited the bathroom, rubbing his hand over his dark crew cut to coax the rest of the water out of it.

“Very nice,” Heather said when he came out. “If I were thirty years younger, I’d be after you. As it is, I need to save my strength for the arena.”

Marco laughed, his voice sounding a tad hysterical. He whirled nervously when his bedroom door opened with no announcing knock, and Six, the subservient Li-Jun, stood there. “It’s time,” he said, and beckoned to them.

***
Excerpt from the Marco and the Red Granny, published by Restless Brain Media at Smashwords. Copyright 2010 Mur Lafferty.

Mur Lafferty is an author and podcast producer. She has released several works via audio podcast, including her novel Playing For Keeps, the novellas in the Heaven series, the audio drama The Takeover, and many others. She’s won the Parsec Award and the Podcast Peer award. Her published works include Playing For Keeps (Swarm), Nanovor: Hacked (Running Press Kids), and Tricks of the Podcasting Masters (Que), not to mention several short stories. She is the host of I Should Be Writing and the Angry Robot podcasts, as well as the editor of Escape Pod, the sci-fi audio magazine. Marco and the Red Granny was originally published as the premier podcast serial at Hub Magazine, and is available for Kindle via Amazon.

Mur lives in Durham, NC with her husband, Jim Van Verth, their daughter, and two dogs. You can find her in the Murverse, at Smashwords and on Twitter.